12 02 2011

The question had been whirling around inside me for some time – I just hadn’t tagged it with a name. It was weaving itself together in my subconscious…that deep part of me. This question was birthed early in my life…it’s inevitable in our maturation. However, I cannot remember when natural wondering went underground – nor can I remember the reason. I suspect it was partly in my family’s genetics – passed along to each generation. I imagine it had some to do with my Southern culture. I know it had to do some with my faith community. I know my learned theology was trying to protect me – and others. So I was encouraged to stay on safe shores and discouraged from venturing into the depths of questioning. Questioning, especially questioning God, was treading on shaky ground. But this question was growing inside me none-the-less. At times it surfaced as curiosity. It would visit me while I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling waiting for sleep. As a child, it confronted my spirit when our dog, Ginger, died. It brought along confusion as its companion when Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated. Its energy pushed against my chest with the suicide of my uncle and a high school classmate. And then, there was the accidental death of my uncle only eight feet from me. Shutdown…numbness – I can’t recall much about my life the year after I felt death’s breath so close. The question seemed to go into hibernation. But time passed, and my frozen feelings began to thaw. I began to hear the heartbeat of the question once again – louder and louder. Understanding was elusive –confusion, grief, questions grew louder and louder. I tried to suppress all of it – the feelings, the beating, the questions – but they would not keep quiet. They pierced the mask of solitude and “togetherness” I was wearing in the presence of others. The question was pounding inside my head and inside my chest…my spirit was disturbed. “There had to be something wrong with me?” “There was something wrong with my faith?” “I did not have enough of it…that had to be the explanation.” “I have to make myself be more faithful. I have to bury these ungodly thoughts, feelings, and questions within me.”

Finally, one night after a campfire meeting at Look-Up Lodge, a summer camp where I was working – to a wide open, starry sky the question could no longer be contained…I acknowledged its presence and yelled its name…“Why?!!!” And as I shouted, I knew I was directing all of what I carried at the One who I had thought…who I had been taught…to never question. With the unchaining of this question, I was acknowledging a living relationship with my Creator.

It felt so good! It felt so scary! I felt relief! I felt guilt while tapes of past expectations – of rules I was breaking – played in my head!

I understand to some extent why my faith community had tried to protect me from questioning God. The new land I had entered came with freedom, and with this freedom came the possibility of turning from my faith; the possibility of living in bitterness; the possibility of making my home within rage and anger; the possibility of reverting back to what was comfortable: suppressing feelings…suppressing thoughts…suppressing questions…cutting off God. But this land also offered abundant life. It offered me the opportunity to feel again – feelings created out of the image of God. It offered a way to live through grief, pain, anger, hurt and loss that was dwelling in me…that was poisoning me. This land invited exploration – exploration of self; exploration with others; exploration with and into God. This land encouraged community – taking off masks that separates us from living in relationship as God intended; walking with others; learning with others; being with others; serving others…serving with others. This landscape is filled with the wonderful colors of God. It comes with an invitation for an ever-deepening intimacy with the One who knows the deepest parts of us and loves us best.

Most likely, you, too, have had questions well up in you born of pain, confusion, or intrigue…from life changing experiences. For some of us, it is not easy asking hard questions of God. Courage has to be mustered…genetics has to be accounted for…the cost has to be calculated – do we dare move away from what has been; from what has been expected? Do we dare take steps into a new adventure…a life long, life-changing adventure? There will be “lenten” times – filled with hard self-reflection…where the Light shines into our shadows and darkness. There will be “Holy Week” times – times when it is hard to see the week’s end…hurt, pain, confusion, dread, weariness, and despair seems as if it will never end…the threat of our spirit’s impending death is ever before us…where the answer to the questions we ask of God may be silence. There will be “Easter” times – those times when hope wins the day…when we breath in fresh air and we are reminded that God will never leave us…when we celebrate…when we know we are loved. We are resurrected within and without. These are the seasons of our lives…a process – the inward listening, the passion, the resurrection – and with each, an opportunity of a growing intimacy with God.

A new season is almost upon us…what questions would you offer?





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